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HOUSTON-Dirt’s officially flying on Houston CBD’s first spec office tower to come out of the ground in 19 years. Before a bevy of officials, Hines Interests and Prime Asset Management Inc. yesterday ceremoniously broke ground on their 32-story, 689,000-sf Calpine Center.

Calpine Corp., a San Jose, CA-based independent power producer, has leased 10 floors or nearly 300,000 sf of the structure that will be positioned at 717 Texas. The new high-rise is set to deliver in fourth quarter 2003.

Two of Calpine’s floors will be trading areas. Calpine’s premier office space eventually will house 1,100 employees now located in scattered Houston office buildings. Sure to be relocated into the building will be Calpine’s central region business development office, Calpine Natural Gas and its trading and risk management departments. More Calpine divisions could be added, says Diana Knox, company senior vice president.

Knox tells GlobeSt.com that the decision for the Hines project was particularly appealing because the building will bear Calpine’s name. “Calpine Corp.’s growth throughout the country is exemplified by this new office building in Houston,” stresses Knox.

JP Morgan Chase Real Estate & Lodging Investment Banking Group financed the project. Hellmuth Obata + Kassabaum’s Houston office designed the building.

Jeff Hines, president of Hines, tells GlobeSt.com that the lot at Texas and Milam is less than a city block and created some architectural obstacles.

Twenty-four of the 32 floors will be office space. The granite building also will feature a 950-space underground parking garage. A landscaped granite pedestrian plaza will surround the structure and lead to the main foyer.

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